With all the hate for unions I'm seeing around here, I thought it might be helpful to remind people what happens when they don't exist, or are very weak.
Next month is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which claimed the lives of 146 of the factory's 500 workers. The death toll was so high in part because the factory owners had locked the doors to the fire escape to "prevent theft." The ladders of the firefighters could not reach the top floors of the building, so many workers leaped to their deaths rather than be burned alive.
Although a few of the workers were unionized, most were not because most were recent immigrants who could not afford to lose their job, no matter how unsafe the working conditions or pitiful the pay. The owners of the factory subcontracted much of the work to people who hired workers and pocketed a portion of the profits. These subcontractors could pay the workers whatever rates they wanted, often extremely low. The owners supposedly never knew the rates paid to the workers, nor did they know exactly how many workers were employed at their factory at any given point.
More about the fire: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/
The Wisconsin protesters have offered concessions on everything but their right to collective bargaining powers, but the governor is determined to take away that as well. Collective bargaining power is the best defense workers, whether teachers, miners, or factory workers, have against abuses such as those that led to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.
“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice.”
President Eisenhower (R-KS)
Im all for unions when membership is voluntary and when private employees unite to protect their interest against abuse by a private employer. Public service workers don't need protection from the government so there should be no reason for them to unionize.
Saying you are for unions when membership is 'voluntary' is a good sound bite, but fails in the light of reason.
Gas taxes pay for a substantial part of keeping up roads. It's one fair tax because the more gas you use, the more taxes you pay. Would you support making gas taxes 'voluntary'. If they were, more and more people would opt out of gas taxes and the burden of paying for the highway system would fall to fewer and fewer people.
A group can only unionize by majority vote. After that the obligations of the entire group may rightly be bound by the decision of the majority. BTW, all the management of my union came from the rank and file of mail carriers.
My union dues are a bargain at just over a dollar a day.
Paying gas taxes are completely voluntary. There is no need to purchase gasoline. It is an absolute tax of consent.
By the same reasoning, working for a company where the employees are unionized is also voluntary. One can choose to work somewhere else.
Most people who understand labor unions would rather be members even if there were no unions in their line of work. One exception would be those workers that earn in the high six figures. They don't want unions, they would rather,bonuses.
Agreed. There needs to be a balance of power between workers and employers, otherwise the one who has the power rips the other one off.
Unions in the UK have been so emasculated as to have no power left at all!
Yes, I was living there when Harold Wilson ruled and the Unions had Britain by the throat. Then, along came Margaret Thatcher and she totally throttled the living daylights out of them.
As I said, balance is needed for it to protect workers from abusive bosses, and to protect responsible bosses from greedy workers.
There is no doubt whatsoever that unions were badly needed at one time. There are also employers that still need a union in their shop to curb abuse, but they are much rarer today.
Plus, of course, we have OSHA and other legal remedies available to prevent such things as the fire tragedy.
I want to be on the record for saying that Unions are fine, so long as they are COMPLETELY voluntary, use NO violence, and allow members to leave or join as they see fit.
@ Evan G. The very existence of unions is that there is some private owner who is indifferent to the needs of the workers. One who is trying to rise his profit margin. Are you still for the record?
Yes but the government doesnt make a profit so why should it have union workers?
Hmmm. I don't believe I've ever seen or heard of a union that was NOT indifferent to the company that fed the union members. Nor have I ever seen one that wasn't trying to raise the income of it's members.
Are you claiming that this is somehow superior to the owner of a company doing the same thing?
Evan, when I was younger and further to the right than I am now I would have agreed with you entirely.
However, when I was in my late teens I found employment in a closed shop. I resisted joining the union, on principal.
Surprisingly there was no immediate walk out, instead I was taken to one side and a couple of the older guys gave me the history of Trade Unionism and finished by asking if I thought it fair to take advantage of the work that the union had done and continued to do and not contribute.
They radically changed my view point.
My excuse for my wrong thinking was my young age. What's yours?
Unions are just as much a right as anything else imo!!
My own grandfather tried to start a union in Worcester, and was kicked out on his can. At 65.
No, a working person must have strength behind him/her or be at the mercy of the owners.
Today, there are some wonderful places to work, and more power to you.
But for those who suffer horrible conditions and lousy pay...unions are a god-send.
And I find it curious how this is the gvr's intent.
Curious indeed...how all the Repubs have done in Washington or anywhere else, has been to cut rights and wages from the poor and middle class, while giving tax breaks to wealthy people and business.
You see? And what is their rationale? "You asked for it!"
Well, guess what? NO, WE didn't. Some of you did.....but is this what you really want?
"Public service workers don't need protection from the government so there should be no reason for them to unionize."
Ummm, HELLO!! It's the Governor who is trying to take away their standard of living!!!
They have plenty to be protected from when the gvt is Republican and anti-labor.
No one that works for the government us going to suffer from abuse of the labor laws... WI elected a governor who promised to look out fir the TAX PAYERS interests and to Walkers credit... he's doing what he promissed. He'll at this point he could be the next president if he can prevail and I predict he will! American tax payers are sick of being abused by special interests and will elect a person with character in an instant!
I hope I don't sound contradictory when I say that both, lady-love 158 and lovemychris are right. In a capitalistic society everyone should be protected against everyone because every one is trying to exploit every one.However, in an agrarian society where gov't is concerned about fair distribution of resources, then, it evens out the the problems of unfairness. In this case the sole purpose of the gov't becomes social-welfare of its citzens. so, gov't and people are one and there is no need of protection.
The problem with unions is that they have grown to large. It is one thing to have a group of employees working together in negotiations with the their employer, it is quite another to have a corporate union entity “representing” workers employed across a large swath of a particular industry.
What all of the pro union folks seem to ignore is that the final union demands are always paid for by the consumer, and in the case of state and federal workers the taxpayer.
Just as Corporations do not pay taxes, they also do not pay for union demands, all those increased costs are ultimately paid by the consumer and taxpayer.
Need an example, what was the cost of your last car?
The cost of your car included funds to cover wages, benefits and pensions to;
United Auto Workers union
Steel workers union
Federal Employees union
And these are just a few. In 2007 alone, $1,200.00 was added to the cost of every vehicle just to cover the cost of health benefits for the UAW. The cost of your car also included UAW demanded wage rate of $70.00 per hour plus the labor burden on those wages.
Source: http://www.heritage.org/research/report … he-economy
I have some friends that retired from the UAW & The Teamsters unions that now have collected pension benefits for more years than they worked in the union, and their monthly pension checks are larger than the paychecks they received when they worked.
Yup, a big part of the reason that Japanese car companies are out-competing American ones is because the Japanese government provides government-run health care so the companies don't have to worry about it.
That's incorrect. Japan has multiple delivery systems for health insurance. All are required to have insurance, however it's not realy inforced. Self employed people buy the "government insurance". Employers buy from private insurance companies. If you buy government insurance you pay premiums plus 30% of cost for approved treatments. In short Japan is NOT a single payer system.
Without factoring in the cost of healthcare it is easy to see why the American car companies are saddled with making up the difference that Japanese car companies have an advantage over their American competition.
How much of the cars cost goes to pay executives salaries and bonuses. I don't see that lessening while the UAW members had to accept cuts to keep the companies afloat.
My ex brother in law worked for a company that was bought by the Japanese.
About the first thing they did was fire the top layer of management.
About the second thing they did was fire the second layer of management.
They were down to the third or fourth layer of management before it had any noticeable effect on the business, so they were more selective about who they got rid of.
I have heard of the same scenario with the way the Japanese handle take overs. It really makes you wonder how well the company ran before and how all those people were held as being so valuable in the first place.
Worse than that, they are held up by outsiders as something to be admired and emulated!
With the unions being the only watchdog on the scene but now in such a weakened state I wonder how the labor force will fair. With the power the unions hold and the power the major corporations hold who is left to reason out the answers?
When and if we come out of this recession and this race to the bottom how will benefits and reasonable wages survive? Will the minimum wage disapear and will basic benefits be only for those who are at the top of the food chain?
the gap will widen bet. the middle class and the super rich people. The middle class will continue to struggle and will need to work harder as the minimum wage will not even rise as prices of commodities increase.
I would take a good look at what is going on in the middle east as the same things are beginning to take hold here.
A disgruntled electorate, a corrupt ruling elite and a super rich elitist minority is not too hard to imagine here as the basis for real trouble.
Unions in the private sector have shrunk feom around 37% of the workforce to around 7% currently. Saying that unions are too large is a myth similar to the expressed fear of government redistributionist tax policies when the truth is that the incomes and wealth of the top 1-2% has grown immensely since Reagan's presidency. We have become a corporatist oligarchy which lacks any countervailing force against the influence of the likes of the Kochs, big oil, coal, pharma and so forth.
The Koch brothers are financing efforts to break public employee unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylania, New Jersey and elsewhere.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/us/22 … f=politics
So in short the Union created the enviroment for the Koch Brothers to operate. Had they been reasonable this would have NEVER happened.
I have worked jobs that were union and non union alike ofcourse the union job was much better than the non union job. I see how most people who don't like unions say they raise the price at the same time companies that are non union raise your taxes like Wal-Mart. Most of Wal-Marts employees are on welfare, and other public add services which come out of all of our taxes even though Wal-Mart makes a lot of money. There are two sides to every case Reagan is well like because of what he did like fire the controllers, but disliked because he started the recession in the 80's and other policy. Unions are good because they can help you get benefits, money, and job security which is great especially with the economy as down as it is now. Unions do raise the price alittle but the rest of the price raise is usually do to the company who want to make a certain percentage. If it makes you feel better the average CEO makes 250 times more than the average employee.
About 20 years ago I worked at a company with a union. It was worse than working without one. Everyone earned the same amount of money, and of course you couldn't join the union until you'd finished the probationary period. You had to join the union or you didn't have a job, and the pay wasn't all that great. (min wage was about $4.75/hr and the job paid $6./hr) I didn't stay long enough to qualify for insurance, but from what I remember I wasn't impressed with what they had to offer.
I do think there is a need for unions, but like many things in life, I think the unions and their use need to be redefined.
Hit the nail on the head, Raf. There are some good unions, and a whole lot of bad ones. Especially those run by organized crime! And those that have people running them that make outrageous salaries! If you believe in the concept, what you make to run it should not be more than what the average member makes.
for some reason I read the title here as ' why we have unicorns'
The only reason unions exist is to protect a mediocre labor force.
Qualified and competent people go into the free market and succeed.
Union members whine until break time and then stop for 15 minutes.
The working man? not by a damn sight.
By the way, Moodys downgraded Japans debt today.
http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles … t%20rating
We have unions because employers still havn't to a degree realized that a they must treat workers with respect and diginity and give them a living wage with a safe work environment.
Unions came into being in the late 19th century for exactly these reasons and continued to grow because of said such. Business owners of the past thought that they were right just because they owned a business. They felt that if they just paid the worker something that that was ok.
In time however more and more owners got smart and realized that they couldn't have a business without workers and the unions basically remimded business owners of this fact.
I agree that joining a union should be voluntary, however it still needs to wake up some business owners. I am still out on whether public employees should be allowed a union for they are paid with state revenue and not private sector profits, and states must have a blaanced budget.
For state workers to demand a raise even tho it's state coffers are/maybe in the red is not commonsensical - even tho they feel that so what - we are owed this because...
I agree except in my jobs in the private sector, the federal government, and the state government I saw similar amounts of waste, incompetence and workplace injustices. All employees should have the right to organize and bargain with their employers if they wish to do so.
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enterprise- capitalist system while many CONSERVATIVES do?
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Yet another set of rights being restored to Americans. Today, at least, is a good day for rights.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/1 … 78021.html
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